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Productions for Small Screen Pay Big Dividends in O.C. : Advertising: 'They are our bread and butter,' a film official says of the TV commercials and infomercials filmed locally.

August 21, 1994|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — In the living room of a fashionable hillside home, Ken Kerry presses a few timid consumers to share their true feelings about a vacuum cleaner.

Sitting barefoot on the shag carpeting while television cameras are trained on the five average folks arrayed before him, Kerry asks questions like: "What does the name Dirt Devil mean to you?"

The inquiry draws a momentary hush. Panelists soon pipe up they never owned Dirt Devils, but wished they had after seeing how the Cyclone Deep Cleaner sucked a fresh stain of Coca-Cola from a white throw rug.

"I'm dumbfounded the Cyclone could get it out that quick," said one participant.

As hokey as it might sound, this is serious business. Kerry is a senior vice president for Script to Screen Productions in Santa Ana, a company that specializes in making half-hour infomercials for television.

While movie fans focus on the glamour of major film projects, companies like Script to Screen are quietly pumping out dozens of infomercials, 30-second commercials, training films and other types of productions locally.

Together, they make up the vast majority of film work in Orange County. "They are our bread and butter," said Cristi Silverberg, director of the new county Film Office. "They are as important to us as the feature filmmakers."

Feature filmmakers may come to Orange County a few times a year. But small independent producers are working here constantly.

Script to Screen officials said they make a concerted effort to keep its production local--simply because that is where most of their workers live.

"Seventy percent of the budget stays in Orange County. We pretty much keep it here," Kerry said in a brief interview before taping began.

Director of production Denny Koska said that the company only goes to Los Angeles County for special occasions. One was the recent shooting of a television advertisement for Slick 50 engine oil additive starring "Coach" television show star Craig T. Nelson.

"He wouldn't come to Orange County," explained Koska. The spot was shot instead along a desolate road in Ventura County.

For the Dirt Devil infomercial, Script to Screen was hired to shoot a demonstration of the product to consumers--then gauge their off-the-cuff reactions and testimonials.

The company was chosen by the Ohio advertising agency for the project, according to Stacey L. Vaselaney, public relations director for Dirt Devil parent Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland who had come to watch the filming.

The Dirt Devil spot was providing four days of work for a crew of about 25. In addition, there were plenty of spinoff benefits for companies like the catering company that served lunch and Patty Anfinson, who opened her Fullerton home to the crew.

The crews came early and transformed the interior of the Anfinson residence into a jumble of electronic gear and electric cords snaking across the carpet. Cardboard panels were placed over marble floors.

The kitchen counter was filled with things like boxes of breakfast cereals, bottles of Hershey's chocolate syrup and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers grape drink ready for dumping on the demonstration rug. Just to make sure, a sign was stretched across them that said, "Do not eat."

"We're going to make all kinds of messes," Koska promises.

Script to Screen has made an effort to be a good neighbor. A worker greeted arriving crew and cast in the street to make sure they were legally parked. Signs placed on the sliding glass door to the patio told everyone to keep it closed and to wipe their feet before entering.

Anfinson takes the controlled chaos in stride, taking time only to herd her golden Labrador, Sara, to an upstairs bedroom.

"They are very, very considerate," she said of the film crew. Anfinson offered up her house to the Script to Screen once previously, for an Estee Lauder skin care infomercial--and got a kick out of seeing her floral-print couch and pink marble fireplace as the backdrop on TV.

People who offer their homes to film crews are usually compensated from $200 to $12,000 a day, industry sources say. Anfinson said she is getting something less than $1,000 for the single-day shoot at her home.

The county film office is compiling lists of people who want to offer up their homes to film crews. In this case, Anfinson's place was chosen because she is a friend of Koska's wife.

The consumers, too, have various connections as well. A young aspiring actor named Kyle Jones is an Anfinson family friend, and Cindie and Mike Weis wrote a letter to Royal attesting to their love for their new Cyclone Deep Cleaner.

All the while during filming, producers ask details of their participants. "What's your favorite spill on a hardwood floor?" inquired Randall Hoy.

"Juice," Kyle Jones replied.

With the tape rolling, Jones later proclaims that he has an old orange juice stain at home that just won't go away. So he gets to soak the carpet in juice and uses the Cyclone to cleanse it.

"So now I won't have to worry about that spot. It won't be such an eyesore," he said.

Where the Money's Spent

In 1992, the most recent year for which information is available, the film and television industry spent $216 million in Orange County for site rentals, transportation, catering and other goods and services. Top 10 film production sites, in millions of dollars:

City Amount 1. Santa Ana $77.8 2. Anaheim 16.5 3. Huntington Beach 10.8 4. Newport Beach 9.6 5. Los Alamitos 8.7 6. Orange 8.1 7. Fullerton 6.8 8. Irvine 6.5 9. Cypress 5.8 10. Laguna Beach 5.8

Source: Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers; Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times

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